What is the Check Engine Light?

by Lee Wyatt
(last updated May 28, 2010)

You might be surprised, but one of the more common questions that I have heard asked by first time vehicle owners (and some not so first time car owners) is "what is the check engine light?" There is a technical answer to this question that goes something like this. These lights are a visual indicator of your vehicle's on-board computer of a malfunction that was sensed in one of the monitored systems. Basically, this is your car's way of saying, "Hey, look at me! There's something wrong here!" And it's for this reason that I like to collectively call these lights the idiot lights, because (jokingly, I assure you) you would have to be an idiot to miss them when they come on. Below is a brief list of the different lights, and what they mean. • Engine Service Light. This light can either be the actual words "Service Engine Soon," or a small picture of what looks like an engine. When this lights up it typically means that there is a problem somewhere in the engine itself, and that it needs to be looked at. Usually this is going to be something with the Electronic Control Module (ECM) which is designed to monitor your vehicles emissions. To know for sure what the problem is, have it looked at by your mechanic. • Thermometer. When something that looks like a thermometer lights up, it means that your vehicle is running too hot. Pull over, and let the vehicle cool down. Check your coolant levels to ensure that they are at the proper levels. If they are, have the vehicle looked at by a mechanic. If not then replace and check again. • Battery. If a light comes on that looks like a battery, that means that you battery level is getting low or that there is a drop in the amount of battery output. Check the connections on your battery and if they are free of corrosion and properly seated then you should take your vehicle to a mechanic. • Gas Pump. This light is only going to come on when you are running out of gas. To make it turn off, simply add more gas. • Oil Can. When the oil can comes on that means that there is something wrong with your engine's oil. The simplest (and most common) reason for this to come on is that you are running low on oil, so simply refill to the proper level, and your light should go off.

Author Bio

Lee Wyatt

Contributor of numerous Tips.Net articles, Lee Wyatt is quickly becoming a regular "Jack of all trades." He is currently an independent contractor specializing in writing and editing. Contact him today for all of your writing and editing needs! Click here to contact. ...

MORE FROM LEE

Saffron

Crocus satiuusy, or saffron as it is more commonly known, is a wonderful little spice that holds many surprises. While not ...

Discover More

Identifying Plants for a Winter Garden

One of the most important steps for making any garden work is picking the plants that you will be growing. This is especially ...

Discover More

Installing Storage Shelving

If you are looking for some additional storage, then you may want to think about installing some shelving. There are several ...

Discover More
More Car Tips

Changing Your Engine Oil

Basic engine maintenance is an absolute necessity. What isn't necessary is to pay the high cost that comes with having a ...

Discover More

What is a Serpentine Belt?

What is a serpentine belt? After all, it is one of those pieces of equipment that most mechanics check when the vehicle is ...

Discover More

Why You Need Antifreeze

To the experienced gear head, it might sound rather silly to ask the question of: Why do you need antifreeze? Whether you ...

Discover More
Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 8Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is 7 - 0?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)